When the news broke in February that the West’s largest coal plant,located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona, was slated to close in 2019, years earlier than expected, environmentalists celebrated. But Navajo leaders scrambled to work out a deal to keep the plant open — arguing it employed hundreds of Navajo members and bolstered the tribal and state economy.
On March 1, the Department of Interior invited Navajo Generating Station (NGS) stakeholders, including representatives from the Navajo tribe, the nearby Hopi tribe, the plant’s co-owner Salt River Project, Arizona utilities, and affected counties to a meeting in Washington to talk about the potential closure.
“All the stakeholders that were impacted in one way or another were there,” said Navajo Nation Speaker LoRenzo Bates following the meeting.
However, a coalition of Navajo environmental groups argued they were stakeholders also but were not invited to the meeting.
“We are Navajo Nation public interest conservation organizations that have worked on issues related to the Navajo Generating Station and (Kayenta) Mine for over three decades. Our members include Navajo Nation citizens living near the power plant and/or mine,” said a press release by Dine’ CARE, To’ Nizhoni Ani, and Black Mesa Water Coalition.
“Our members are directly affected by the operation of the plant and/or the mine, by the detrimental environmental impacts on our local water resources, and by significantly increasing health disparities in our community,” the groups said.